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Hostages’ families urge gov’t to stand firm on talks with Hamas

"I want us to get the best deal possible, not just for the hostages and their families, but for all the citizens of Israel,” father of captive tells JNS.

Protesters block the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv, calling for the release of Israelis held in Gaza, Jan. 24, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Protesters block the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv, calling for the release of Israelis held in Gaza, Jan. 24, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

As Hamas officials headed to Cairo on Thursday for negotiations on a supposedly imminent hostage deal, the families of some of the captives urged the Israeli government not to give in to the terrorists’ demands. 

“I hear people say that the government of Israel should be ready to pay any price,” Tzvika Mor told JNS. His son Eitan, 23, a security guard at the Supernova Festival, was kidnapped by Hamas on Oct. 7. 

“Did they ask the Israeli public if they are willing to sacrifice everything? Besides, where do they draw the line? Do you agree to send ammunition as well?” he asked.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with families of the hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and reiterated that he would not agree to a deal that could represent a threat to national security. He also tweeted a video on X saying he would not accept a deal “at any price.”

Netanyahu denied that political motives were affecting his decision-making process while National Security Minister and Otzma Yehudit Party leader Itamar Ben-Gvir is threatening to bring down the government if it reached a “reckless” agreement with Hamas.

According to a snap poll conducted by Israel’s Channel 12 television on Tuesday, 50% of Israelis oppose a hostage deal that would see an extended pause in the fighting in Gaza and the release of thousands of Palestinian terrorists. Only 35% support the terms of the reported agreement, with the rest undecided.

“I tend to think that Israel should not negotiate with terrorists, but if we must, I want us to get the best deal possible, not just for the hostages and their families but for all the citizens of Israel,” Mor said. 

Mor, co-founder of the Tikva Forum, which includes 30 families of hostages, said the forum’s mission is to have Israel act as a strong state that does not fold before Hamas or other terrorist organizations, regardless of the circumstances. “We must keep the best interests of the Israeli people in mind and safeguard them. If we surrender to Hamas, terrible things will happen in the years to come,” he said. 

While he believes that military pressure is the best way for him to reunite with his son, Mor said the only agreement he could envision would be one that would not stop the war or prevent Israel from defeating Hamas, and which would include a one-to-one ratio in releasing Palestinian terrorists for hostages. 

The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that Israel had agreed to a framework for a renewed hostages-for-ceasefire deal. Hamas was considering the offer, the Post said, citing officials familiar with the negotiations.

All civilians would reportedly be released over an initial six-week period, with soldiers and the bodies of dead hostages returned in subsequent stages.

Israel would free an as yet undecided number of Palestinian terrorists from prison for each hostage. The agreement would also reportedly include “a temporary repositioning of Israeli troops away from high-population areas of Gaza.”

Shimon Or’s nephew Avinatan Or, 30, was kidnapped from the Supernova music festival along with his girlfriend, 26-year-old Noa Argamani. “We don’t know that there is a deal in the making. We truly hope that what we see in the media is not real, but if it is, we are letting Hamas win. It will not bring back the kidnapped, it could even lead to more kidnappings,” Or said.

“Both the Gazans and Hezbollah are watching how we act, and if they see us fold, they could try to carry out more massacres and kidnappings in other locations,” he added. 

Mor saw a contradiction in sending humanitarian aid to the Hamas-ruled enclave. “We have to give humanitarian aid to our people first. I want to give humanitarian aid to my son. We are talking about his life. I can’t give him food or even just bread and water.”

Despite government efforts, hundreds of Israeli protesters have made their way to the Kerem Shalom border crossing every day for more than a week to demonstrate against the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

“I think it is a shameful act to allow humanitarian aid to enter the enclave since it is going straight to Hamas and strengthens those that our IDF soldiers are fighting,” said Eytan Rund, 39, an IDF reservist from the Jerusalem area who took part in the protest. 

“The international community is pressuring Israel very strongly; our leaders need to be able to show that we are not okay with it. If that means blocking the trucks until they find another way to send aid into Gaza [so that Hamas cannot steal most of the supplies], then we’ll do it,” he said.

Rund will also join a five-day march, organized by the Reservists on Duty group, from Kibbutz Zikim, near the northern Gaza Strip, to the Knesset in Jerusalem starting on Feb. 4, to demand that Israel continue the war until Hamas is defeated.

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